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Managing pregnant heifers and newborn calves: a guide for lot feeders

10 December 2018

Australian lot feeders have a new best practice management guide to help them develop and implement their own programs to manage pregnant heifers and newborn calves.

The guide, Feedlot best practice management – Pregnant heifers, has been developed by MLA and the Australian Lot Feeders’ Association (ALFA), in collaboration with respected industry veterinarian and feedlot consultant, Dr Enoch Bergman of Swans Veterinary Services based in Esperance, WA.

The National Feedlot Accreditation Scheme (NFAS) requires all accredited feedlots to develop, document, and implement management practices to address the welfare needs of both pregnant livestock and newborn calves within the lot feeding sector.

About the guide

Dr Bergman said while the incidence of pregnant heifers in feedlots is relatively low, lot feeders need management strategies in place to manage unexpected pregnancies as well as to comply with NFAS standards.

“The guide explores a number of procurement or processing strategies that can be implemented to reduce the number of pregnant heifers going on to feed, all of which can be part of a feedlot’s pregnancy management plan,” Dr Bergman said.

“Further, if an accredited feedlot feeds any heifers, they will be required to have a documented calving management plan in place to manage the health and welfare of any heifers which calve onsite, as well as their calves.

“Lot feeders are committed to improving the welfare outcomes of the animals they feed. Beyond the welfare implications, pregnant heifers suffer performance outcomes that directly affect the profitability of feeding heifers within the lot feeding industry. Indeed, there are some feedlots who don’t buy heifers at all to avoid the risk.

“Production losses within any sector of the beef supply chain impacts all other stakeholders. To ensure that each segment of the industry is optimally profitable and that welfare outcomes are optimised, there is a need for greater cooperation between cow/calf producers, backgrounders, and lot feeders to prevent or reduce the numbers of pregnant heifers being supplied to feedlots.

“There is growing interest in cattle being marketed as preg-tested empty with supporting documentation, which has been supported by the Australian Cattle Veterinarians through their nationally recognised PREgCHECK scheme

“The push for pregnancy status documentation should lead to better outcomes for all stakeholders, send sufficient market signals to cow/calf producers, and ultimately optimise the performance and welfare outcomes of Australian heifers destined for feedlots.

“Feedlots aren’t the place to be having calves - working together, we can make sure that calves are born where they belong.”

More information:

Copies of the Feedlot best practice management – Pregnant heifers will be distributed to NFAS accredited feedlots in January.

To obtain a hard copy of the guide, contact ALFA-MLA Technical Service Officer, Jeff House,